Black Same-gender-loving Men Are Most Impacted by HIV, But Not Benefiting From Recommended Standards of Care

March 29, 2021

Russell Brewer, DrPH, a research associate professor at University of Chicago Medicine, and P.J. Moton-Poole, a senior manager at ViiV Healthcare, discuss the expansion of the accelerate initiative, which funds projects that support the health and wellbeing of Black same-gender-loving men throughout the United States.

Pharmacy Times® interviewed Russell Brewer, DrPH, a research associate professor at University of Chicago Medicine, and P.J. Moton-Poole, a senior manager at ViiV Healthcare, on the expansion of ViiV Healthcare’s accelerate initiative, which funds projects that support the health and wellbeing of Black same-gender-loving men throughout the United States. Specifically, the expansion of the initiative focuses on disrupting disparities in care for Black same-gender-loving men living with HIV.

During the discussion, Moton-Poole and Brewer explained what the accelerate initiative is and when it was launched, how Black same-gender-loving men living with HIV are able to benefit from the initiative, and why this focus on the HIV epidemic is so important right now, specifically in this patient population.

Brewer explained that HIV remains important because it is still a major public health issue in communities across the country. However, with new avenues for treatment being developed for HIV treatments in recent years, there is a need to also focus on how to get these new treatments to the people who need them.

“We have a real opportunity to get to zero new infections in the United States. We have a robust treatment and prevention toolbox to help make this happen. New medications are being developed, new ways to deliver medications are being developed, but we need context-specific solutions to get deeper and in a more meaningful way to communities and reach people who need them the most,” Brewer said. “So that's why place-based initiatives, such as accelerate, are critical.”

Brewer highlighted how data have demonstrated that Black same-gender-loving men living with HIV have not been benefiting from the recommended standards of care for HIV for a variety of reasons, while also being a population that is disproportionately impacted by HIV.

In order to understand how to address this problem and improve the standard of care for Black same-gender-loving men living with HIV, Moton-Poole explained that ViiV Healthcare released a retrospective report When We Feel Whole: Learnings From the accelerate Initiative, which shares insights from the company’s 4-year, $10 million commitment in Baltimore, Maryland and Jackson, Mississippi.

In the report, findings were structured under 2 primary categories. The first was findings around the actual initiative design itself, and the second was findings around stigma reduction. For the initiative design, the report showed a few key areas of focus that are critical to the success of the initiative, including the development of flexible mechanisms for continuous learning, identifying essential design elements early on, implementing practices that support a patient’s whole self in acknowledgment that HIV cannot be addressed in a vacuum, supporting leadership development to strengthen communities and drive impact, and sharing learnings to make change on both a community and a national level.

“For stigma reduction, we identified 4 additional key learnings,” Moton-Poole said. “Those were that stronger networks can help men break down stigma and feel empowered to advocate for the care that they want. Safer spaces and peer navigation help men build trust, which are critical to making HIV prevention and testing a pathway to care. Investing in leadership and professional development helps men move across the care cascade. Finally, arts and cultural activations are effective in engaging men and facilitating stigma reduction activities.”

The discussion also included how findings from the report could be applied across health systems, what some of the implications of the report are across the public health space for BIPOC communities, and what is on the horizon for the accelerate initiative in 2021.